2008 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon

Year: 2008
Appellation: Napa Valley
Country: USA - California
Wine Spectator: 87
Wine Advocate: 90
Vinous Media: 89
Connoisseurs' Guide: 87
Wine Enthusiast: 88
James Suckling: 92
Red Wine
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"Not up to its usual showing, this was tight, with loamy earth, tar and graphite flavors topping the dried currant and dark berry fruit. Very restrained, chewy and chalky on the finish. Decant, but not a good cellar candidate. Three bottles tasted, with consistent notes. Drink now through 2017. 21,000 cases made. " (WS)

"The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot and Malbec) is an impressive version. Their 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon is still alive at age 35. The 2008's dense ruby/purple color is followed by an attractive bouquet of creme de cassis and charcoal. Revealing full-bodied richness and lots of depth, it is one of the finest regular Cabernet Sauvignons Phelps has made in many years. The tannins have sweetened over the last year and this impressively endowed effort, while approachable now, should age for 20+ years.

Joseph Phelps’ flagship wine, which they have been making for 36 years, is the Insignia, which boasts a remarkable track record. Phelps, always a visionary, was the first to recognize that a blend of grapes could be better than a single varietal cuvee. Phelps produces a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Backus Vineyard situated on the eastern slopes of the Oakville Corridor overlooking Screaming Eagle and Rudd Estate." (WA)

"Dark ruby-red. Showy aromas of cassis, cedar and flowers. Sweet and ripe but a bit youthfully austere compared to the 2007 and 2009 versions, showing a strong core of blueberry and cassis fruit. This very tight wine is taking its time to open up but appears to have the fruit intensity to support its serious tannic spine." (IWC)

"Lots of sweet spice and touches of smoke sit atop a good dose of well-ripened fruit in the nose and then again on the palate, and in each venue fruit lags a step or two behind ripeness and obvious oak. That said, the wine still has a fine sense of richness, and with a bit of time on the cork, it should both find a fruitier focus and shed a bit of the toughness that its nominal tannins now bring to bear. Reviewed: August 2011" (CG)

"Made in the Phelps style, big, muscular and ripe, showing powerful blackberry, cherry, blueberry, licorice, spice and sweet oak flavors. It’s slightly generic for Napa Cabernet, but showy and appealing. Drink now." (WE)

"Plenty of aromas of spices and tobacco on the nose. It shows lots of ripe fruit with round tannins, yet closed and tight still. Long and juicy on the finish. Savory and sexy. Try it in five years or so." (JS)

Winery Notes:
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec from estate vineyards (83%) and independent growers (17%).

Grapes were harvested between September 11 – October 24, 2008 at an average 24.5° Brix, fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged 18 months in a combination of 50% new French and American oak barrels and 50% one- to two-year-old oak. Coopers include Nadalié, Sylvain, Demptos, Taransaud, Ermitage, François Frères, Dargaud Jaegle, Demptos (American) and Canton (American). The 2008 Cabernet reveals aromas of plum and blackberry intertwined with graphite, forest floor, dark chocolate and curry notes. The fruit and spice carry through on the palate adding to the multilayered texture of this wine. Supple, integrated and age-worthy tannins create a long, lush finish.

The 2008 growing season started out with lower than normal rainfall for the second year in a row and the longest cold and frosty spring recorded since 1971. May brought unusually high temperatures during the latter part of the month, in the midst of bloom. Such drastic weather changes led to imbalances in the vine, especially at this important time in the life cycle, prompting flower fertilization to cease prematurely in some Cabernet Sauvignon clones. Surprisingly this was a blessing in disguise leading to looser and lighter cluster formation. This natural thinning allowed adequate airflow within the clusters during maturation and also nicely balanced out the crop load on each vine. June, July and August proved to be months with consistently warm temperatures that led to even and healthy vine development. Our weather record keeping revealed that overall heat accumulation for September and October was higher than our 25 year average by seven to 17 percent, respectively.